Barbell Hip Thrust: Easy to Follow Guide for Improving Execution

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Written by Coach Austin Current

In this article, we are going to cover the Barbell Hip Thrust ⏤ also known as Glute Bridge ⏤ from the set-up, helpful execution cues, and common mistakes that are made.

First off, let’s not get too caught up in semantics. Within the context of this article, we are looking to place tension on the glutes. You can call this movement a hip thrust or a glute bridge. The most important thing is that you understand the foundations of the movement and how to best perform it to place tension on the glutes.

When looking at any glute dominant movement, it is hard not to mention Bret “Glute Guy” Contreras. He has brought a lot of attention to glute training and has given the industry good foundations to build upon. If you are a fan of Bret’s work then you may be more familiar with the term hip thrust. Either way, we are talking about the same thing and the main focus is on the glutes. That said, let’s get down to business!

One of the greatest benefits of this movement is being able to challenge your glutes in their shortened ⏤ contracted ⏤ position. As you can see from the image below, peak tension in the glutes is different for the hip thrust than it would be for the barbell back squat. Training the glutes in their lengthened ⏤ stretched ⏤ position is more common as most movements hit peak tension at this stretched position: split squats, deadlift variations, lunges, et cetera.

image credit to https://bretcontreras.com/your-optimal-training-frequency-for-the-glutes-part-i-exercise-type/

 

Full-Length Video Tutorial

If you’re on mobile and video will not play: click here

SETTING YOURSELF UP

 

Equipment

When setting yourself up for the movement, you are going to need a few key items:

  1. A barbell
  2. A pad to go between yourself and the barbell (*optional)
  3. A steady bench

 

Body Positioning

Before we worry about placing our upper back onto the bench or rolling the bar onto our lap, I like to first find our positioning. The two most important contact points to keep in mind:

  1. Upper Back ⏤ right under the shoulder blades
  2. Feet ⏤ shins should be vertical (perpendicular to the floor) with your knee over the ankle, toes pointed slightly outward

 

Establishing Range of Motion

After you find your positioning and establish your contact points, now it is time to find your active (training) range of motion ⏤ the range of motion available to maintain tension on the glutes throughout the movement.

 

 

The indication you have hit the end of your range of motion is when the knee starts to track backward and is no longer above the ankle. Your goal is to stop your eccentric (down) just before this happens.

From this point, you will start the concentric (up) by giving tension to your glutes and driving your hips up in a straight line.

 

 

Again, this is a recommended “practice round” for ensuring you have properly set yourself up and established the proper range of motion for the movement.

 

THE EXECUTION

 

Positioning Barbell

When setting the bar in your lap, the easiest way ⏤ as you’re still sitting flat on the floor ⏤ is to roll the bar from in front of your feet over your legs and into the pelvic crease. Once the bar is comfortably positioned in your pelvic crease, you can make your way to the starting position of the movement ⏤ remember your contact points.

 

 

Helpful Cues

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, I would like to touch on two of the most important factors for successfully performing this movement: maintaining a neutral spine and bracing (engaging) the abs.

As you will see from the image above, Emily has tucked her chin to create a neutral spine and she has braced (engaged) her abs to help create cohesiveness with the torso and pelvis.

 

COMMON MISTAKES

 

  1. Going outside the active (training) range of motion: this is one of those times where more is not always better. Now, before you think this is a partial range of motion, remember why we are performing this movement. The goal is to place ⏤ and maintain ⏤ tension on the glutes. If you work outside your active range of motion tension will start displacing itself onto other musculature, such as the quads and low back.
  2. Foot position: if your feet are not aligned properly, other tissues could start to gain better leverage ⏤ like the quads ⏤ and take tension away from the glutes. It can also make the exercise more uncomfortable to perform.
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine: this helps ensure that you’re in a safe position when you start to load up the bar and move heavier loads. You often hear about people experiencing lower back pain or strain around their neck. This often comes from “looking up” and not maintaining and neutral spine throughout the movement.
  4. Not bracing or engaging the abs: the abs attach directly to the pelvis. Within any exercise, there are multiple muscles helping stabilize a joint and creating counter force to better accommodate tension ⏤ commonly known as the antagonist. The erector spinae ⏤ often referred to as erectors in the lower back ⏤ attach to the pelvis. It’s important to create stability here and keep the torso and the pelvis working as an integrated, and cohesive unit
  5. Lacking control and tempo: if you watched the full video linked at the start of the article, you heard me talk about how this movement can be turned into a complete posterior-chain, explosive, athletic-based movement. If you’re an athlete and this was your goal from the on-set, then that is fine. But, if your goal was to maximize tension in the glutes, it’s a good idea to maintain control and learn how to utilize tempo. A common tempo we prescribe to clients is 3-0-1-2. This means you will control your eccentric with a 3-count, spend little to no time at the bottom, contract the glutes and drive the hips up, and then squeeze and contract the glutes at the top for a 2-count.

 

PROGRAMMING TIPS

 

As discussed toward the start of the article, one of the greatest benefits of this movement is being able to challenge your glutes in their shortened ⏤ contracted ⏤ position. Training the glutes in their lengthened ⏤ stretched ⏤ position is more common as most movements hit peak tension at this stretched position: split squats, deadlift variations, lunges, et cetera.

Below, I am going to suggest how to start implementing this into your current programming:

Exercise Selection: Depending on your current lower body training, you may already have a high focus on glutes. If you already have a high allocation of volume for the glutes, you may look at where those movements challenge the glutes (note: resistance profile). For example, squats variations, deadlift variations, and lunges challenge the glutes in their lengthened ⏤ stretched ⏤ position. If this is where most of your glute training volume is coming from, it may be good to substitute out one of those movements and replace it with the hip thrust ⏤ as it challenges the shortened range.

Sets & Reps: When getting started with any new movement, it is advised to use more sets and fewer reps. This helps you train in a proper movement pattern with more frequent exposure to the movement at a lower volume.

Tempo: As this movement challenges the shortened ⏤ contracted ⏤ position, it is advised to spend time where the movement is challenging. So, work to spend 1-2 seconds in that top fully contracted position (you are working on squeezing and contracting, not just holding the position).

Example: 6 sets of 4 to 6 reps with a 3-4 RIR is a good place to start within your first 1-2 weeks of implementing this movement. The better your execution gets, the fewer sets and more reps per set you can perform effectively.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The Barbell Hip Thrust ⏤ or Glute Bridge ⏤ is a complex movement with many moving parts. It may seem overwhelming as you read through this article, but if you can break things down step by step it becomes an easier movement to practice, and eventually master. If you can remember how to best set yourself up, stick to your contact points, and avoid common mistakes, you will be on your way to mastery in no time!

Thank you to Emily Duncan for helping out with the filming of this video. Check out the entire 8-part series on our YouTube channel ⏤ Physique Development.

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Written by Coach Austin Current, BSc, CSCS, IFBB, Pn1

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